A Losing Bet

**opinion zone** I think I've been pretty clear in my blog and in my life that I detest fad diets.  I abhor the idea of " clea...

**opinion zone**

I think I've been pretty clear in my blog and in my life that I detest fad diets.  I abhor the idea of "cleanses." 
I'm going to add to the list of things that I do not like:  DietBet.  

Why not?  For one simple reason:  if you do not lose 4% of your original body weight, you lose the bet (except in the case of no one reaching the 4%, then the highest percentage wins). If you lose 3% of your original body weight, you do not get to share in the winnings.  You get nothing.  Even worse, you're out your original investment.  There are a million ways to lose weight in an unhealthy manner.  DietBet does not judge whether you've improved your health or whether you've gained muscle.  You could lose fat and gain muscle and still not get your 4% weight loss! Wouldn't that suck?  Your pants fit better but you'd still lose the bet because of one misleading metric. You could have a horrible case of the flu and not be able to eat for two weeks and you could reach your 4% goal.

DietBet approached me in January and asked me if I'd like to host a bet, and I declined because not only did I not want to take part in a competition where weight was deciding factor, but I didn't want to put that kind of pressure on the people I care about. I still think you're a winner if you don't lose a single pound, but are eating well, exercising joyfully, and dealing with the issues that made you unhealthy in the first place.

To be clear here, I actually don't like most forms of competition dieting.  I think it promotes unhealthy behaviors in the guise of a competition.  It's a very important distinction that I've tried to make with #GoTheDist -- you set up your individual goals, compete against yourself, and your reward is something you give yourself.  It is not based on results, but behaviors.  Did you set out to do what you said you would do?  And a very important question for #GoTheDist is "Can you be proud of your behaviors even if you don't reach 100% of your goal?"

It's so very disheartening to see DietBet's ability to infiltrate the weight loss/health gain community.  People like the idea of getting a cut of the proceeds when they host, people like the idea of splitting the pot, of being in competition.  I understand the psychology behind that.  But I would beg of you to really ask yourself whether weight loss is the only way you could consider yourself succeeding -- or if your success can be measured by other means.

If your success can only be measured by pounds lost, I would then ask "Where is the finish line? Are you sure you'd be happy there?" 

If your success can be measured by other means -- I'd love to hear what metric gets you most excited.

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12 comments

  1. I couldn't put my finger on why I didn't really like the idea of DietBet either, but I think this sums it up pretty perfectly. I've never measured my success by how much I weigh, and I have achieved, quite literally, all of my dreams. Thank you for this post.

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  2. I think you make some incredibly valid points and I love how #GotheDist is more about personal goals than a number on a scale.

    I just joined a Dietbet today and frankly, I'm thinking about hosting one of my own at some point in the summer (although I didn't know about the host getting a cut. I'm not sure how I feel about that...). For me, it's truly the kick in the pants that my weight loss needs. Up until a few weeks ago, I had been in the 230's for a year and a half. My wife (whose weight loss had been pretty stagnant as well) joined a DB and we both broke through out plateaus. Since she was eating healthy, I ended up eating healthy too lol. Having that short term goal in the back of our minds helped us make smarter decisions with how we lived. We ate at home more and we worked out more. For us, it isn't about the money. Heck, it's not even about beating other people. Because we knew at the end that even if aren't at our 4% at our final weigh in, we are still healthier.

    With that all being said, you are absolutely right that people could take dangerous measures to reach their goal, and that needs to be part of the conversation when hosting. Those quick fixes, as we all know, get us nowhere in the end. Instead, you should be spending that month of DB focusing on becoming healthier. I also agree that there is more to health than a number on a scale, but the conversation of what healthy looks like is a whole other post within itself lol.

    So what I'm trying to say is, while I am still going to do Dietbet, you have given me a lot to think about as well. And I'm glad we are having conversations like this as a community.

    What are your views on The Biggest Loser? Kind of in the same territory as your views on Dietbet? Just curious.

    As always, excellent post!

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  3. Thank you for articulating this so clearly...

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  4. I hear ya, and you have some good points. Still, I think DietBet can work for some. By putting up some cash or simply participating in something, it might help motivate someone to stop eat between meals or make healthier decisions throughout the day. Yep, I signed up for my first DietBet last week. Prior, I hadn't been able to jump on the losing train. I'm hoping this gives me the kick I need. If it doesn't, I'll try something else. Not everyone needs to do weigh-watchers, jenny craig, crossfit or DietBet to lose weight. We can each find what works best for ourselves, there is no single right answer. Do you agree?

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  5. Nathan:

    How do I feel about shows like The Biggest Loser -- well... that's a simple question with a complex answer.

    1) If you've ever read Dr. Huizenga's book Where did all the fat go?, you'll know that The Biggest Loser's doctor worked with the LA Raiders. He saw big guys gain/lose weight on the field all the time and surmised that if these linemen could do it, the average person could do it. They just needed to be taught how and supported in that process. I really dig that aspect of The Biggest Loser -- that they've shown all ages, sizes, and athletic backgrounds can lose weight and be healthier.

    2) I like the episodes that are heavy on the science/medicine -- showing people the effects of having excess weight on their bodies. I think that many people are in denial about their health and how their weight affects them. The DEXA scans really drive that point home in a way that a blood test read out might not.

    3) I am a firm believer that no one becomes morbidly obese by being happy. That being said, I wish the show started from that angle before the first work out. I'm willing to bet that the contestants get psychological screening before participating, but they only talk about the psychology of trauma as it comes up. I think they should talk about the psychology and physiology of food addiction (as many morbidly obese people have some degree of food addiction). I'd love to know more about the turning points in the contestants' lives where their health and self-care took a nose dive. I think lots of people can relate to that.

    4) I'd also like to see the contestants set goals early in the beginning that are concrete. As the season progresses, to have trackers regarding those goals. I think putting so much emphasis on the weight is dangerous, especially when they're losing at the rate that they do.

    5) I'd like to see the contestants cooking more and also for the trainers/doctors to discuss the importance of food logging, food planning, rest, and recovery. It doesn't make for thrilling TV but it does show a fuller picture.

    6) I'm concerned that the Biggest Loser finale paints a rose-hued picture about life after the Biggest Loser. Many of the contestants have re-gained the weight because they didn't address the psychological issues, because they weren't taught maintenance, and because they may or may not have been doing it for the right reasons.

    7) I'd love to see a season of Biggest Loser where there was no prize at the end (or it was a for-charity season). Would people still be as committed?

    8) I think that the Biggest Loser made a huge gaffe when it comes to licensing, and especially Bob and Jill for both putting their names on diet pills/supplements.

    I'm sure there's more, but like I said, how I feel about those shows are really complex. I think their intention is good, but their effects might be bad.

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  6. Losing The Rolls -- I am all for anything that helps people make better choices when it comes to their health, however, I think having people hyperfocused on the result (their weight) is counterproductive to improving their health (their overall behaviors). I mean, what if someone dehydrated or starved themselves just to make goal?

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  7. Really enjoyed this post - I like the opinion zone! In my opinion, you're spot on to focus on positive behaviors.
    I think when a group of people get together, and help each other work towards their goals, it can be so powerful. There are a lot of really supportive communities out there. But when a group starts competing against each other, and there's $ at stake, you lose that. When it comes to health related goals, I like to see scenarios where everyone can be a winner.

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  8. This: When it comes to health related goals, I like to see scenarios where everyone can be a winner.

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  9. Very Well Said Sweetie!

    I was always one to judge my value and my body image by a number on a scale. That was until I started to train as a semi-pro athlete. I am 5' 11" tall and a size 8. I should be around 140 lbs or less to fit some sort of Vogue cover ideal. Instead I am almost 190 lbs. Why? Muscle mass and wow I have tons of it.

    I've learned from two of my trainers that I should never ever step on a scale again. Instead I should look at my resting heart rate of 56, my BP of 110 over 60, my rapid recovery from exertion, and my size 8 dress size. That's the true measure of how I look, not some completely arbitrary number on a man-made device that tells you absolutely nothing about yourself.

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  10. Ms. Glamazon Barbie: I think you have a very unique point of view when it comes to how one sees their own body and especially the many ways that outside forces can cause static interference. That being said, I think you just proved my point yet another time -- that weight and health/fitness are often two opposite metrics. If I were to stay the same weight but have lean muscle mass, then I'd be perfectly content to toss my scale out the window.

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  11. I joined a DietBet purely because the people running it were friends and I won mine, so I didn't have a bad experience with it. It made me very motivated to stay active, but I felt bad hearing all the stories people were having of personal issues/sickness etc. that cause them to be unable to "win". I am not a huge fan of the idea of DietBet, but I like having some form of social community that has an incentive to lose weight.

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  12. Josh -- there are so many great ways to have community without stress. And to have community while promoting healthy behaviors and attitudes, yanno?

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<3 Robby